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Lake Geneva Generals tryout showcases area football talent


Players of all ages and backgrounds relieved to play football again



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Generals owner Derek Diehl spots Badger grad Trevor York on the bench press during Saturday's combine. Mike Ramczyk.

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The vertical jump was one of several skill stations, which included 40-yard dash, bench press and several shuttle runs. Mike Ramczyk. (click for larger version)

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(click for larger version)
February 12, 2013 | 04:45 PM
Saturday marked the third official tryout for the Lake Geneva Generals, a semi-pro football team based out of Williams Bay.

Instead of actually trying out for the team like 2011, I played the role of Sports editor and took pictures and video of the event. I guess there's no harm in actually doing my job.

Sadly, I am rehabbing from a knee injury, and my quarterback skills are on the shelf.

But it wasn't about me. It was about a team that was on the brink of extinction two weeks ago before getting the OK for a third season. Generals owner and coach Derek Diehl assured the 30 or so athletes of all ages and backgrounds before the combine the team is here to stay.

"We are permanent," he said to his players. "We will be here for years to come."

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Players dusted off their sneakers and rotated from station to station, including the vertical jump, shuttle run, 40-yard dash and bench press. Local stars were out in full force, like last year's leading rusher Trevor York, a 2011 Badger High School graduate.

Also, Williams Bay's Daniel Kant-Hull is back with the team. Currently a strength coach intern at the University of Iowa, Kant-Hull starred for the Bulldogs in the mid-2000s. Ryan Yunker, a 22-year-old Badger grad, said his goal is to start this year at safety. On the other end of the spectrum, a Walworth man in his 40s said he is trying his hand at semi-pro football for the first time. There was a former Carthage College star wide receiver simply looking to return to football. Finally, former Big Foot star Bill Hogan was back for another season. The 22-year-old starred for the Chiefs before playing for Lakeland College.

The veterans made their presence felt as well. Elkhorn's Shane Hinrichs, a team leader on the offensive line, said he was happy to be back with his "family." Linebacker Jasen Wright looked just as menacing as ever, and others like Michael "BZ" Rice, Mark Chambers and Jake Schlegel made play after play.

One newcomer took over the quarterback role for most of the combine, and his athletic prowess was impressive. He jumped well over 10-feet on the vertical jump, and he put up 225 pounds more than 10 times on the bench press. But it was York whose performance was the most eye-popping. After running for more than 700 yards last season, York is poised for an even better 2013. He dazzled with 40-yard dash time of 4.46 seconds, a clip that rivals NFL players. At 200 pounds, the tall, athletic York held his own on the bench press as well.

York joked that he has been training with Kant-Hull, and the two were doing various power lifts during the tryout.

After individuals drills with different position players, the players combined to run offensive and defensive sets. Diehl said the team will run the University of Oregon offense this season, a fast-paced offense that stresses a read-option running look and a no-huddle, fast-paced style. It requires lots of athletes and speed, and York and some newcomers fit the bill.

However, the offensive line, which averages at least 300 pounds, may be more geared for pass-blocking. However, the "General," as Derek's wife Jeni likes to call him, is a football mastermind who hasn't missed the playoffs in his 11 years in semi-pro football.

It killed me to not be out there firing passes to some of the gifted receivers, many of whom played college football at one point. Overall, guys were cooperative, organized and helped push each other to the limit. After financial concerns threatened to suspend the season, it's all systems running in the Bay, and the consensus from players and coaches is that these guys are a family.

The Generals added a new coach from Kenosha Christian Life, the team Williams Bay beat last fall for its historic first win in five years. Jeni Diehl said the coach liked Derek so much he offered to join the Generals. It's that kind of camaraderie that makes this team so special.

The combine served as an initial look at new talent, and veterans had a chance to play football again. In a couple weeks, the guys will start practices in the Bay, and the preseason begins in May. The regular season starts in July.

Diehl and the Generals are back in business, and judging by the solid turnout and positive atmosphere Saturday, that's a very good thing.

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